Vaccine Controversies

February 19, 2016 • Volume 26, Issue 8
Should parents be required to immunize their children?
By Jane Fullerton Lemons

Introduction

Jennifer Wonnacott, with her son Henry (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Jennifer Wonnacott, with her son Henry, is among the California parents who supported a new law requiring schoolchildren in the state to be vaccinated. The law bans most immunization exemptions and is among the nation's strictest. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Two centuries of scientific evidence have proven conclusively that vaccines can prevent deadly diseases, but a small, vocal group of skeptics — aided by high-profile celebrities — continues to fight mandatory immunization, especially of babies and school-age children. More than 90 percent of Americans immunize their children against diseases such as measles, diphtheria and whooping cough, but the remainder either reject immunization or don't get the vaccinations on schedule. Public health officials say refusing to follow vaccine protocols allows diseases to spread rapidly, as happened in December 2014 when a measles outbreak began at Disneyland and spread to seven states. But opponents of mandatory vaccination contend that the escalating number of vaccines poses safety concerns and that requiring parents to immunize their children impinges on parental rights and personal freedom. The conflict extends beyond school-age children to include mandatory immunization against the influenza virus for health care workers and military requirements that recruits be vaccinated against yellow fever, anthrax and other dangers.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Vaccines
Feb. 19, 2016  Vaccine Controversies
May 11, 2007  HPV Vaccine
Jun. 13, 2003  Increase in Autism Updated
Feb. 07, 2003  Smallpox Threat
Aug. 25, 2000  Vaccine Controversies
Jun. 09, 1995  Combating Infectious Diseases
Jun. 18, 1993  Childhood Immunizations
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Children
Consumer Protection and Product Liability
Infectious Diseases
Medical Research and Advocacy
Pharmaceuticals